Friday, March 28, 2014

Penal Consequences of Sin Removed - No More Condemnation to Them Who Are in Christ Jesus

Hodge comments on the judicial nature of our justification in Christ.  Before the Law our sin has charged to Christ's account and his law-penalty payment and perfect obedience being credited to our account. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XI - Of Justification
As to its nature, this justification is a purely judicial act of God as judge, whereby he pardons all the sins of a believer, and accounts, accepts, and treats him as a person righteous in the eye of the divine law.
From the universal meaning of the English word to justify, and of the equivalent Greek word in the New Testament. They both are alike always used to express an act declaring a man to be square with the demands of law, never to express an act makinghim holy. (Gal. 2:16; 3:11.) (b) In Scripture, justification is always set forth as the opposite of condemnation. The opposite of "to sanctify" is "to pollute" but the opposite of "to justify" is "to condemn." (Rom. 8:30-34; John 3:18.) (c) The true sense of the phrase "to justify" is clearly proved by the terms used in Scripture as equivalent to it. For example: "To impute righteousness without works"; "To forgive iniquities"; "To cover sins." (Rom. 4:6-8.) "Not to impute transgression unto them." (2 Cor. 5:19.) "Not to bring into condemnation." (John 5:24.)...
Because the Scriptures affirm that this righteousness is imputed to the believer in the act of justification. The phrase "to impute sin" or "righteousness," in its scriptural usage, signifies simply to set to one's account, to lay to one's charge or credit as the ground of judicial process. Our sins are said to have been laid upon Christ (Isa. 53:6,12; Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24), because their guilt was so charged to his account that they were justly punished in him. In like manner Christ's righteousness is imputed, or its rewardableness is so credited to the believer that all the covenanted honors and rewards of a perfect righteousness henceforth rightly belong to him. (Rom. 4:4-8; 2 Cor. 5:19-21.) For the usage of the Hebrew and Greek equivalents of "imputation" (see Gen. 31:15; Lev. 7:18; Num. 18:27-30; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; Rom. 2:26; 4:3-9; 2 Cor. 5:19). This doctrine of our Standards is that of the whole Protestant body of the Reformed and Lutheran Churches...
The first truth asserted in this section is, that Christ, by his obedience and death, has fully paid the debt of those who are Justified; and that he made for them a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father's justice. In connection with the above, the second truth that is taught here is, that this justification is, as it respects the persons justified, from beginning to end a stupendous manifestation of the free grace of God.
The fact that Christ's righteousness is the ground of justification, and that his righteousness in strict rigor fully satisfies all the demands of the divine law, instead of being inconsistent with the perfect freedom and graciousness of justification, vastly enhances its grace. It is evident that God must either sacrifice his law, his elect, or his Son (Gal. 2:21; 3:21). It is no less plain that it is a far greater expression of love and free grace to save the elect at the expense of such a sacrifice than it would be to save them either at the sacrifice of principle or in case no sacrifice of any kind was needed.
The cross of Christ is the focus in which the most intense rays alike of divine grace and justice meet together, in which they are perfectly reconciled. This is the highest reach of justice, and at the same time and for the same reason the highest reach of grace the universe can ever see. The self-assumption of the penalty upon the part of the eternal Son of God is the highest conceivable vindication of the absolute inviolability of justice, and at the same time the highest conceivable expression of infinite love. Justice is vindicated in the vicarious suffering of the very penalty in strict rigor. Free grace is manifested-(1) In the admittance of a vicarious sufferer. (2) In the gift of God's beloved Son for that service. (3) In the sovereign election of the persons to be represented by him. (4) In the glorious rewards which accrue to them on condition of that representation...
Christ paid the penal, not the money debt of his people. It is a matter of free grace that his substitution was admitted. The satisfaction, therefore, does not liberate ipso facto , like the payment of a money debt, but sets the real criminal free only on such conditions and at such times as had been previously agreed upon between God, the gracious sovereign, on the one hand, and Christ, their representative and substitute, on the other hand. Christ died for his people in execution of a covenant between himself and his Father, entered into in eternity. The effects of his death, therefore, eventuate precisely as and when it is provided in the covenant that it should do so...
In justification the believer's relation to the law is permanently changed. It is no more the basis of his salvation...
If his sins are forgiven, the penal consequences of them must be removed. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." Rom. viii.
A.A. Hodge, Commentary on The Westminster Confession of Faith


  1. A mystical experience guy writes: “It was not only imputed sin, because Christ then had to live out that sinfulness by bearing that sinfulness”

    This focus on the “sinfulness” that Jesus is bearing sounds like some six hour mystical experience, and it distracts from the meaning of Christ being legally counted with the guilt of the elect.

    First, I question the biblical basis for these mystical guys assuming that Christ was not imputed with sins until six hours before He died. Second, the wages of sin is death, and not some six hour experience. Third, the focus on “sinfulness” rather than imputed guilt calls into question what these guys think “imputation” means. Is it only a transfer of punishment and consequence, and not of guilt, as Andrew Fuller would have it?

    I understand the practical point is that imputation has results. Of course I agree. Indeed, I am the one saying that the life of the new birth is a result of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. But mystical guys don’t like that. They would rather talk about their new birth experience.

  2. The point of Galatians 2:21 is that Christ died to completely satisfy the law’s demand, and there is no possibility of satisfying God’s law in any other way except Christ’s death.

    And to those who would say, well sure, we don’t deny that Christ’s death figures into the equation but don’t forget how grace now causes us to get circumcised, Galatians 2:21 goes all or nothing. ONLY Christ’s death for righteousness, because if not ONLY that, Christ died for nothing. Thus the antithesis.

    When the mystical guys proclaim (they don’t explain) that it’s not only about the imputed righteousness, they are opening up a false way for some other kind of salvation. If there were indeed a future justification based on our works, then we who are justified by Christ’s obedience alone are without hope, and Christ died in vain.

    Only the non-elect and non-justified will be judged by the books. This is why we who have our names written in the book warn those who don’t believe the gospel of the judgment to come.

    II Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

    God's imputation of righteousness has results. Result one, those imputed with Christ’s righteousness know and believe God’s only gospel, and repent of the false gospel that gets them into the equation. Result two, there is no condemnation for those imputed with Christ’s righteousness.

    There is no being “in Christ” without being imputed with Christ’s righteousness. “No condemnation” is not a result to be minimized. And “no condemnation” is not a result to be put in doubt based on the works of those who are already in Christ.